April 23, 2013

Sequestration Should be Solved, NASA Official Says (Source: AL.com)
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said it is essential that sequestration be solved. "Sequestration is not a one-year deal. It's 10 years," he said. "So we've really got to get out of it. If we have to operate under sequestration, all the (ambitious goals NASA has set for deep space travel) are years from happening." (4/22)

Old Dog Orbital Is Ready to Give SpaceX a Fight (Source: Bloomberg)
The competitive stakes around commercial space travel were raised in barely 18 minutes on Sunday, as Orbital Sciences conducted a successful test launch of its Antares rocket. The test showed that Orbital could launch a rocket and some cargo into space without a hitch, improving the company’s position as it pursues NASA’s resupply contract for the International Space Station. Orbital expects to complete a more complex test in the middle of this year in preparation for what could be a three-year, eight-mission, $1.9 billion deal. (4/23)

UH to Study Effects of Space Travel on Immune System (Source: Daily Cougar)
The human immune system works to keep the body healthy if it is working properly, but for an astronaut, that system of fighting viruses can be compromised by traveling into outer space. The UH Department of Health and Human Performance has partnered with NASA to help understand why this happens in a 14-month program that will analyze the effects of long duration space flight on astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“It is important to determine whether or not long-duration spaceflight impairs immunity before exploration class spaceflight missions — i.e., to Mars or an asteroid — can be considered,” said Rickie Simpson, principle investigator for the program and UH assistant professor in exercise and immunology. (4/23)

Orbital Announces First Quarter 2013 Financial Results (Source: Orbital)
Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) today reported its financial results for the first quarter of 2013.  First quarter 2013 revenues were $334.8 million, compared to $338.0 million in the first quarter of 2012.  First quarter 2013 operating income was $31.1 million, an increase of 31% compared to $23.8 million in the first quarter of 2012.

Net income was $19.6 million, or $0.33 diluted earnings per share, in the first quarter of 2013, compared to net income of $13.0 million, or $0.22 diluted earnings per share, in the first quarter of 2012.  Orbital's free cash flow* in the first quarter of 2013 was negative $34.2 million compared to negative $32.7 million in the first quarter of 2012. (4/23)

Suspected Meteor Flash Briefly Transforms Night to Day in Argentina (Source: NBC)
A suspected meteor flash wowed observers in Argentina early Sunday — and sparked memories of February's more serious blast over Russia. The fireball lit up the night in north and central Argentina at about 3:30 a.m. local time, according to accounts from Argentine news outlets. "The sky lit up completely for a couple of seconds and interrupted the calm in this area of Argentina," BarrioOeste.com reported. Witnesses in Catamarca, Tucuman and Santiago del Estero reported sightings. (4/23)

JPL Open House, Felled by Sequestration, Costs About $400,000 (Source: La Cañada Valley Sun)
Bracing for “significant impacts” to funding for public outreach programs next year, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory decided to cancel its hugely popular open house in June. The cost savings? Roughly $400,000 for the two-day event. The figure is a comparatively slim sum for an agency that deals with budgets into the billions, but comes as NASA faces pressure to cut costs where it can amid the across-the-board federal spending reductions known as sequestration.

It was that downward pressure that JPL cited when it announced last week that the open house scheduled for June 8 and 9 would be canceled to save money. At the time, the cost to put on the event was not available. But on Monday, JPL spokeswoman Veronica McGregor said the budget to put on the open house -- which attracts close to 40,000 people each year -- is roughly $400,000, including for security, portable toilets, presentations and other items brought to the La Cañada Flintridge campus. (4/23)

NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race Draws 600 Competitors to Huntsville (Source: Huntsville Times)
early 600 young would-be rocket engineers from India to Ottawa and Wyoming to Florida arrive in Huntsville this week to compete in the 20th annual running of NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race. The two-day event is Friday and Saturday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and, beyond the race, it's a free chance to see the center's grounds and outdoor exhibits. Racing begins at 7:30 a.m. Friday, and full race details are here. At right is a gallery of photos from last year's race. (4/23)

Lockheed Martin Profit Rises (Source: AP)
Lockheed Martin's first-quarter net income rose 14 percent, but its results for the rest of the year could take a hit as a result of federal budget cuts. The aerospace and defense contractor said the cuts, known as sequestration, could reduce its 2013 sales by about $825 million. As a result, the company said it now expects its sales for the year to come in near the low end of its previously projected range. For the three months ended March 31, Lockheed Martin earned $761 million, up from $668 million in the 2012 first quarter. Revenue slipped 2 percent to $11.07 billion from $11.29 billion. (4/23)

Top 10 Strangest Things In Space (Source: ListVerse)
Let’s be honest: space is an absolutely crazy place. Most science fiction writers throw in a planet with two stars that looks vaguely like Southern California, and call it a day. But the cosmos is a lot stranger than we give it credit for. Click here. (4/23)

Mad Men in Space? Writers Pitch Show About NASA in the ’60s (Source: WIRED)
writers from the hit TV series Mad Men are pitching a new show: a look at the early days of the U.S. space program through the eyes of the journalists who covered it. It’s a rich premise, especially in the Mad Men era: the 1960s were bookended by the first manned spaceflights in 1961 and the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. Space Coast Film Commissioner Bonnie King emphasized that the show is far from a done deal, and is only one of several film projects currently in consideration for filming in the region. Among other factors, King is still searching for appropriate locations. (4/23)

Astrium Engineers Take a Shot at Space (Source: Flight Global)
How many satellite engineers spend their day shooting at things? Answer - two. And, it must be said, Simon Barraclough and Jaime Reed are having a good time doing it. The dynamic duo are housed in a brick bunker that was a rifle range back in the days of British National Service, when employees of what is now Astrium UK would have had to take time out for training. However, with their air-powered harpoon gun pointed at a sheet of honeycomb aluminium typical of that used in satellite construction, they are taking aim at a deadly serious problem. (4/23)

Life on Mars? Finding It May Require Humans on Red Planet (Source: Space.com)
Life may well lurk beneath the Martian surface today, but it'll be tough to detect without sending humans to the Red Planet, some experts say. It could be a long time before robots are able to drill deep into the Martian underground, explore caves and investigate other potentially life-supporting habitats on the Red Planet. So if humanity wants to satisfy its curiosity about potential life on Mars anytime soon, it should work to get boots in the red dirt, advocates say.

Most scientists think the frigid, dry and radiation-bombed Martian surface is unlikely to host life as we know it today. But conditions could be much more benign in underground environments such as caves or lava tubes, providing potential refuges for microbes. "The subsurface is going to be radically different from the surface," astrobiologist and cave scientist Penny Boston, a professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, told SPACE.com late last year. "Every indication we have from caves of all different kinds all over this planet [Earth] shows that it doesn't take much separation vertically for a radically different environment." (4/23)

NASA: Sequestration Threatens Timetable for Projects (Source: USA Today)
NASA's ambitious agenda of missions beyond low-Earth orbit would face delays if the federal government has to weather another year of sequestration spending cuts, a top agency official told a Senate panel. A flight to corral an asteroid and land on it within the next several years as well as a crewed journey to Mars sometime during the 2030s — which some critics say isn't soon enough — are among projects that would be pushed back by continued budget-trimming, William Gerstenmaier said.

If sequestration remains in effect during fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1,"we can't deliver the programs that we committed to you that we would deliver," Gerstenmaier said. "We can tolerate the (fiscal) 2013 sequester because we're prepared," he told members of the Science and Space Subcommittee. "But if it continues into '14, the programs and timetables I described, I don't believe we can continue to support it. This is really going to be tough for us moving forward." (4/23)

Five Cubesats on Two Launch Vehicles From Two Continents (Source: Spaceflight Services)
Spaceflight Services successfully deployed five CubeSats from two different launch vehicles that were launched from two different continents. On Friday April 19, 2013, the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle successfully lifted off from its pad in Baikonur to insert the Bion-M1 satellite into orbit. The Bion-M1 spacecraft is a biological research satellite that carried a host of experiments aimed at researching how to make life in space easier and healthier for astronauts.

The Bion-M1 also transported several secondary passengers, one of which is a Spaceflight 3U ISIPOD carrying the Dove-2 spacecraft, a 3U CubeSat made by Cosmogia Inc. The launch was arranged in a cooperation between Spaceflight Inc and ISIS’ subsidiary Innovative Space Logistics (ISL). ISL was responsible for the execution of the launch campaign. As per the mission plan, the Dove-2 spacecraft was successfully deployed from the Bion-M spacecraft at approximately 10:00 UTC today, April 21st. (4/23)

To Catch a Planetoid (Source: Space Review)
The highlight of NASA's 2014 budget request is the beginning of an effort to bring an asteroid back to the vicinity of the Earth for study by astronauts. Jeff Foust examines the details of this proposal and some of the concerns and criticism expressed about a plan that, for many, sounds like science fiction. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2283/1 to view the article. (4/23)

Antares Rising (Source: Space Review)
On Sunday, Orbital Sciences Corporation successfully launched its Antares rocket on its inaugural mission, after two scrubs earlier in the week. Jeff Foust reports on the launch and its significance for Orbital, NASA, and others. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2282/1 to view the article. (4/23)

The Business of Space Travel (Source: Space Review)
Commercial space startups today are offering everything from suborbital spaceflights to trips to the Moon and the resources of asteroids. Frank Stratford argues that the business cases for some of these companies, while promising, need changes to allow for more near-term revenue opportunities. Visit http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2281/1 to view the article. (4/23)

Now Booking: Your Flight to Space (Source: Venture Beat)
Richard Branson is determined to take paying passengers to space. So determined, in fact, that Virgin Galactic has enlisted an elite group of accredited “space agents” to sell tickets at a starting price of $200,000.
In the Bay Area, Tony Cardoza and Lynda Turley Garrett are two of three agents licensed to sell space flights, which they offer alongside African safari adventures. They have sold less than a handful of tickets between them, but they are convinced that sales will pick up as Virgin Galactic inches closer to launch.

The official launch date isn’t confirmed, but it’s expected for 2013 or early 2014. The flight is about two hours, and travelers — which the agents refer to as “future astronauts” — will experience four minutes of weightlessness and have a picture taken with the curvature of the Earth in the background. A little-known fact is that if you don’t have $200,000 in the bank when you sign up for Virgin Galactic; you can save a seat with a $20,000 deposit and pay the rest when you receive a space date. (4/23)

NASA STEM Programs Set for Shakeup (Sources: SpaceRef, AAU, SPACErePORT)
OSTP has provided details on 78 federal agency STEM education programs that will be transferred, consolidated and reorganized under the Department of Education, NSF and the Smithsonian Institution. Thirty-eight are NASA programs, including several that have involved Kennedy Space Center and have directly benefitted Florida students and teachers. These NASA programs represented $48 million in NASA's budget in 2012. The FY-2014 funding for these programs will be shifted to the other agencies.

Another 21 NASA STEM programs will be eliminated or consolidated within the space agency. Again, this list includes programs that have involved KSC and benefited Florida students and teachers. KSC's role in managing the agency's STEM programs had grown over the past decade. The cuts and consolidations don't seem to impact the agency's national network of Educator Resource Centers and the Space Grant Consortia. Click here. (4/22)

Humanity’s Destiny?
(Source: LaunchSpace)
Finally, humanity may have a future home. We know that someday the Earth will no longer be able to support the human race. It may be the inevitable death process of our sun as it ages. It may be the result of nuclear wars. Or, it may be due to a lack of clean water and air. No one knows exactly what will precipitate the departure of humanity from Earth, but we do know that our tenure here is not unlimited. We also know that humanity is intelligent enough to survive almost any cataclysmic scenario, given time to prepare.

Even now, we do know that clean water and air are in limited supply, and that supply is diminishing. Population growth is outpacing the food supply. Nuclear proliferation may soon reach an unstable point, insuring a nuclear war of global proportions. And, we do know the sun has a limited lifetime. (4/22)

Dutch Reality Show Seeks One-Way Astronauts for Mars (Source: AFP)
Are you crazy enough to sign up for a one-way trip to Mars? Applications are now being accepted by the makers of a Dutch reality show that says it will deliver the first humans to the Red Planet in 10 years. The main requirements are strong health, good people and survival skills, being 18 or older, and having a reasonable grasp of the English language.

The non-profit company, called "Mars One," aims to land its first four astronauts in 2023 for a televised reality show that would follow the exploits of the first humans to attempt to establish a colony on Mars. A range of potential pitfalls might prevent the project from becoming a reality, including the inability to return to Earth, the small living quarters and the lack of food and water on Mars.

Assuming of course, that radiation endured during the trip is not lethal, and that any spacecraft is able to negotiate a volatile landing onto the harsh Martian landscape. Nevertheless, Mars One founder Bas Lansdorp told a New York press conference on Monday that organizers had received 10,000 messages from prospective applicants in over 100 different countries in the past year. In all Mars One is seeking six groups of four people each. A new quartet would make the seven-month journey every two years after the first crew departs in 2022. (4/22)

Numbers Support Theory Large Earthquakes Can Trigger Others Far Away (Source: Space Daily)
Big earthquakes can trigger other quakes far from their geographical center at least 9 percent of the time, a statistical analysis by a U.S. researcher shows. With a number of huge earthquakes in recent years leading many to question whether one large quake can cause another on the other side of the world, Tom Parsons of the U.S. Geological Survey surveyed catalogs of seismic activity on every continent except Antarctica going back to 1979.

Of the 260 earthquakes of magnitude 7 or greater during that period, small earthquakes on separate fault systems followed in the wake of 24 of them, triggered by seismic waves passing through distant lands, he said. "It's a small hazard, but there is a risk," he said. Parsons, who presented his results Friday at the Seismological Society of America annual meeting in Salt Lake City, says his next step will be to investigate the 24 quakes that caused far-off events and see if there is anything special about them. (4/19)

Vandenberg Focuses on People, Mission During DoD Budget Cuts (Source: Space Daily)
The budget for fiscal year 2014 may still be uncertain, but Vandenberg senior leaders are committed to the best over-all solution for Team Vandenberg personnel and the mission. Under sequestration, signed into law as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, installations across the Air Force made reductions to conform to the $85 billion mandated federal budget cuts.

Vandenberg has not been exempt from these cuts and the base has already taken steps to implement reductions across every aspect of the base's operations. "We have tried very hard to make deliberate, well-thought, logical reductions that preserve safe and secure mission accomplishment, and maintain services for our people and their families," said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander.

"We took a look at our wing financial plan and had to make tough choices. We've drastically cut our travel and supply budgets and we're reducing the capability of our motor fleet. We've even cut back on the number of smart phones and cell phones. The budget also reduced what base leadership refers to as Vandenberg's most valuable asset, its people. (4/19)

Your Odds of Becoming an Astronaut Are Going Up (Source: WIRED)
When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” many kids say, “Astronaut!” More than a few adults would say the same. And why not? We are captivated by the idea of exploring new worlds, having adventures in space, or just floating weightless in zero gravity. After all, zero-g makes mundane things like wringing a wet towel out into mind-blowing experiences.

The end of the Space Shuttle program, which was the most likely route to space, seemed to put this dream even further out of reach for most of us. But many new ways to potentially get to orbit are appearing on the horizon, and your chances of strapping into a capsule atop a rocket and feeling Earth’s grip loosen may be better than ever.

More and more private companies are getting into the space business, and some of them are looking for people to launch into space. One of the most ambitious new ventures, Mars One, hopes to put humans on the Red Planet by 2023. And today, the company is officially starting a worldwide search for 24 individuals to join their mission and become newly-minted astronauts. Click here. (4/22)

Could, and Should, Astronauts Have Babies on Mars? (Source: Space.com)
The first Martian colonists may want to think twice about reproducing. Though it may not seem like the most pressing problem facing the future astronauts of the Mars One expedition aiming to launch in 10 years, whether or not to have children could be a major biological and ethical conundrum. Mars One spacefarers would establish the first Martian colony, with subsequent crews arriving every two years.

Eventually, those Mars settlers may want to have families — but can they? Doctors say they don't know whether humans would be able to become pregnant and give birth in the lesser gravity on Mars (it's got 38 percent of the gravity on Earth), not to mention how babies would fare under the excess radiation outside of Earth's protective atmosphere. (4/22)

Project Hermes: America's V-2 Rocket Program (Source: Discovery)
It’s a question few rocket scientists have to answer these days, but at the end of the Second World War it was on everyone’s mind: what do you do with the brilliant Nazi scientists after importing them to the United States? The answer, in the case of Wernher von Braun and the team behind the V-2 missile, was to put them and their rockets to work for America in the New Mexico desert.

The German rocket scientists, particularly von Braun, were already notorious among their American counterparts. The V-2 devastated London towards the end of the war. It also outstripped any American-made missile at the time. In 1944, the American Army’s Ordnance Department issued a contract to General Electric for the development of long-range missiles, surface-to-surface missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. GE was to use the basis of their weapon; with Germany on the road to defeat the U.S. military hoped to make up lost ground by getting the V-2’s engineers to develop an American version.

The idea grew into Project Hermes. It was to be a three-phase program wherein GE would first study all available literature on the technology at home, then send an engineering group overseas to study the German missile program in person, and finally develop the Americanized experimental versions of the German weapon. The ultimate goal was to integrate German rocket knowledge into the American arsenal as three categories of missiles: an antiaircraft missile called Hermes A1; a surface to air wingless version of the A1 called Hermes A2; and a tactical missile called Hermes A3. The basis for all these missiles was the V-2. Click here. (4/22)

Space Debris Collisions Expected to Rise (Source: BBC)
Unless space debris is actively tackled, some satellite orbits will become extremely hazardous over the next 200 years, a new study suggests. The research found that catastrophic collisions would likely occur every five to nine years at the altitudes used principally to observe the Earth. And the scientists who did the work say their results are optimistic - the real outcome would probably be far worse. Click here. (4/22)

How Habitable Are Kepler's New Worlds? (Source: Discovery)
NASA’s prolific Kepler space observatory never ceases to amaze planet hunters. Last week’s announcement of two “super-Earth” type planets sharing the habitable zone around the red dwarf star Kepler-62 further ratcheted up our optimism that life-bearing planets are all over the galaxy.

Kepler scientists explained that the only data the stellar transits (when the planets pass in front of their stars) have to tell us is the planets’ orbits and diameters. Still it’s hard for experts to resist speculating that these planets “may have polar caps,” or may be “water worlds,” or, “we may have found the first ocean planet,” The scientists finally did acknowledge in the April 18th NASA press conference that they were doing “a lot of arm waving.”

The same would be true for my imaginary alien astronomer Zork, on a planet 1,000 light years away. Zork reports to colleagues that photometric observations of the yellow dwarf star Sol (a.k.a. our sun) reveals three planets inside or on the edge of Sol’s habitable zone: Venus, Earth and Mars. He considers this a great SETI target because you get three inhabitable worlds for the price of one observation! Click here. (4/22)

Editorial: U.S. Planetary Science: Fading to Black (Source: Space News)
By any objective measure, planetary science is one of America’s crown jewels. A unique symbol of our country’s technological leadership and pioneering spirit, this endeavor has consistently demonstrated that the United States is a bold and curious nation interested in discovering and exploring the richness of worlds beyond our own.

In addition to informing our worldview, these missions are inspirational beacons, pulling young people into educational and career paths aligned with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the foundation of continued U.S. economic competitiveness. Beginning with the flight of Mariner 2 more than 50 years ago, the U.S. has consistently led the robotic exploration of our solar system. Decade by decade, we have created, flown and operated a balanced portfolio of missions to explore destinations across the solar system.

In the 1990s, the U.S. carried out multiple missions at Mars, Cassini to Saturn, as well as missions to our Moon, the asteroids and a comet. Today, U.S. spacecraft are en route to Jupiter and Pluto... Despite the success that has built up over decades, today we are on a path that relinquishes U.S. planetary science leadership. Starting in 2017, with the end of the Juno mission at Jupiter and the Cassini mission at Saturn, NASA will only have spacecraft at or on their way to one planet: Mars. After four decades of U.S. spacecraft operating in the vast outer solar system, there are currently no outer planet missions of any kind planned until after 2030. (4/22)

Editorial: Bold Mars Pursuit Truly Inspires (Source: Space News)
The recently announced Inspiration Mars mission has been described as “audacious,” “extremely challenging” and “ambitious.” The announcement has rightfully been met with skepticism. Ironically, I am told that this is exactly how members of the Inspiration Mars team first reacted when presented with the unique opportunity to conduct a human mission around Mars and back to Earth in 501 days within five years. The team’s determination, after intensive study, to pursue this bold goal has me cheering them on. (4/22)

Producing Water on Moon Best Fiscal Option for NASA (Source: Central Florida Future)
NASA plans to make water on the moon for $250 million, but the high price could lead to more cost-effective space exploration in the future. NASA is developing a lunar rover to find and extract water, along with other materials, from the moon’s surface. Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction, or RESOLVE, is projected to blast off in 2017, and aims to demonstrate how to make water on site. Click here. (4/22)

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